Nothing good at all comes from public apologies

Nothing good at all comes from public apologies. By Freddie deBoer. All is not well in the left camp, as an arch leftie writes.

The TLDR is that [Brandy Brooks] held hands and had intimate conversations with someone who was technically her subordinate on the campaign trail. There was also talk of (but no actual commission of) a back rub. And that’s it, really.

The “victim” in question is an adult who had every opportunity to let Brooks know privately that her intimacy was unwanted, but this is 2022, and we handle our business via whisper campaigns and show trials. The DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] dropped its endorsement of Brooks, so did several other organizations, and she has essentially become radioactive in the progressive community where she lives. …

Seemingly every major local branch [of the DSA] has devolved into the worst redbaiting and McCarthyite tactics, driven by shameless and ambitious elite college grads who see the language of social justice as the perfect cover story for waging personal vendettas as they climb to the top of their new hierarchy, the hierarchy of Justice Doer. …

The concept of restorative justice is constantly endorsed in the spaces where Brooks had her character assassinated. So where is restorative justice for Brooks? Even if she were guilty of something, would she really be so guilty as to warrant the destruction of a decades-long career? …

It’s a bizarre little quirk of contemporary left politics — people simultaneously believe that many crimes shouldn’t be prosecuted and that we should always work to reintegrate even the worst offenders into society, but if you violate any of the arcane language norms of 21st-century liberalism, you can never be redeemed. Podcasters laugh at people concerned with a rash of carjackings but will then give the social death penalty to someone who says something in a clumsy way. Very weird!

Brooks has apologized for anything that may have made anyone uncomfortable, and of course this has only made her more guilty. She has stood up for herself as she feels appropriate, and of course this has only made her more guilty. All roads lead to condemnation and none to absolution. …

I believe, deeply, in the positive value of guilt, shame, and contrition. …

But it’s become abundantly clear that there simply is no value in public apology. Admitting fault only emboldens critics. The mechanisms of social media always reward escalation and never reward calm and restraint. Contemporary progressive politics excuse any amount of personal viciousness so long as the target is perceived to be guilty of committing some identity crime.

The notion of proportionality is totally alien to these worlds, and when people ask for such proportionality they’re accused of supporting bigotry. People who are friendly online shamelessly wage backchannel campaigns against each other, and almost no one on social media has the stomach to stand up for someone else when the mob comes for them. Most importantly, the public can never grant you absolution for what you’ve done; absolution is not the public’s to grant.

The strangers on Twitter can’t accept an apology, even if they ever would, and they wouldn’t. You can ask the mob for forgiveness, but they have no moral right to grant it, and anyway they never will. They’ll just keep you wriggling on the end of a pin forever. Honestly: how often do people who make public apologies come out ahead in doing so, especially because they’re so often coerced and thus insincere?

Apology itself is good. But public apology is a useless and self-defeating ritual. …

So many people, of so many political stripes, have given up. And I think that plus the truly ruinous and sadistic influence of social networks and their reward systems have created this ever-seething mob that constantly casts around for its next scalp. We can’t get real change, but by god, we can make people cower! You can’t apologize to that. You shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists.

Solution: Change social media so that the same mechanisms that suppress weirdos and fanatics in real life work on social media. The crazies, scolds, and busybodies have been allowed to dominate social media — and way too much of political life. Put them back in their box. Boo them off the stage.